Explore Sendai, Japan
Explore Sendai the largest city (about 1,000,000 people) in the Tohoku region of Japan‘s Honshu Island.
As everyone here will tell you, “it’s not too big and not too small, it’s very convenient and it’s close to both the sea and the mountains.” Sendai is a comfortable and pleasant city — it’s a nice place to live. It’s very green — in fact they call it (Mori no Miyako, “Forest City”). The main avenues around the city are wide and tree-lined, giving the city an almost European feel. The main shopping street — confusingly known by two different names, Chūō-dōri and Clis Road — is pedestrianized and covered, so it feels like a mall. Several large universities are located in Sendai, attracting young adults from throughout the Tohoku area.
Although there is evidence of settlements in the Sendai region dating back over 20,000 years, it was not until the local feudal ruler, Date Masamune, moved his capital here in 1600 that the city began to take on any signifance. He established a fine castle on Aobayama (green leaf mountain) and the town that was built below the castle near the Hirose River was built according to the traditional street grid pattern.
On March 11, 2011, the city suffered catastrophic damage due to the magnitude 9.0 2011 Great East Japan Quake, the largest ever to hit the country and the 4th largest ever, whose epicenter was 130 km to the east of the city, in the Pacific Ocean. The earthquake caused a devastating tsunami that flooded Sendai. Together, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people on the country’s north-east coast.
Sendai is not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer, compared to other Japanese cities to the south.
Most travelers will arrive in Sendai by train. Sendai is the largest station on the Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) which runs from Tokyo to Aomori. By the fastest service, it is just over 90 minutes from each.
Sendai Airport (SDJ) mainly functions as a domestic airport with regular flights.
The city center is compact and can easily be traversed on foot, especially by using the covered shopping arcades. There are many shops and arcades around Sendai station and therefore people could walk around on their own. Other parts of the city are quite hilly (even the center has some significant slopes) and while they still could be traversed on foot, this might be physically demanding. Residential parts are also very spread-out, and walking such large distances becomes impractical.
You can buy
- Sendai hira- silk
- tsutsumiyaki- pottery
- yanagi’u washi- hand made paper
- tsuishu- lacquerware
- kokeshi- wooden dolls, popular throughout the Tohoku
- Sendai tansu- wardrobe
- Sendai Daruma
Sendai’s specialties include gyūtan grilled beef tongue; sasakamaboko, a type of fish sausage; and zundamochi, sweet green soybean paste eaten with soft glutinous rice balls. Sendai-Miso has a long history. Hiyashi-Chuka is made in Sendai.
Due to the numerous universities located near the city center, the nightlife in Sendai is excellent for a city of its size. Several small dance clubs on or around Chuo-dori fill with incredibly energetic young people most nights of the week. Kokubunchō is the main entertainment district. Full of restaurants, izakaya, bars, hostess bars and strip clubs.
What to see. Best top attractions in Sendai, Japan.
- Zuihoden, 23-2, Otamayashita,Aoba-ku(By car:Approximately 20 minutes by car from Sendai Miyagi I.C.(Parking available free of charge.) 9:00 – 16:00 / 16.30. Mausoleum of Date Masamune, first lord of Sendai Domain. Zuihoden was designed in the ornate style of the Momoyama Period. It features intricate woodwork and a rich variety of vivid colors. Massive cedar trees surround the paths in the area, and are meant to symbolize the long history of the Date clan. A museum besides the Zuihoden main building shows some of the personal artifacts of the Date family, and even some specimens of their bones and hair.
- Ōsaki Hachiman Shrine. Completed in 1607, and is designated a national treasure. The metal ornaments and colorful designs displayed against the black lacquer woodwork is an especially attractive feature.
- Sendai City Museum, Kawauchi 26. It takes about 10 minutes to Museum International center’s stop. The museum is 3 minutes’ walk from the stop.). A nice complement to the castle with a nice little play room with plenty of old Japanese toys as well.
- Sendai Castle Ruins. Often recommended by locals. There’s a replica of a gate and a statue of the founder of the city.
- Miyagi Museum of Art, 34-1 Kawauchi-Motohasekura, Aoba-ku. A reasonable collection of modern art. Special room for Juryo Sato a local (but nationally famous) sculptor. A beautiful garden and a nice view of the river.
- Statue of Kannon. There is a huge statue of Kannon (the Buddhist deity of compassion) outside the city that is worth seeing. However, don’t expect to find it mentioned in any guides. Ask locals for directions.
- Sendai Mediatheque. This building was designed by Toyo Ito and is an important piece of contemporary architecture. Take a look at the outstanding structure while enjoying the cafeteria and design shop on ground level.
- Rinno-ji, 1-14-1 Kitayama, Aoba-ku. An historic temple with a large traditional garden, which is especially attractive when the azaleas are in bloom.
- SS 30 Observation Lounge, (At the intersection of Higashi Nibancho Street and Kitamenmachi Street.). This office tower has an observation deck on the 29 and 30th floors, which is open and free to the public.
- 3m Sendai City Science Musuem, 4-1 Dainohara Shinrin Kouen, Aoba Ward. A modest collection covering the sciences with a lot of science exhibits and plenty of buttons to push.
- Sankyozawa 100 year electric historical center, 16 Sankyosawa, Aramaki, Aoba-ku. 09:30-16:30. A small musuem discussing the history behind japan”s oldest power plant a hydroelectric dam. free entry.
- Yagiyama Zoo
- The Museum of the Forest of Depths of the Earth4-2-1 Nagamachi-Minami, Taihaku-ku. The museum of the stone age. In the museum, restoration exhibition of that time is carried out based on the data discovered from public presentation and there of the ruins 20,000-year Saki’s Old Stone Age unearthed from Tomizawa ruins
- The biggest festival in Sendai is Tanabata. The festival is the most famous in Japan and starts with fireworks on Aug 5th and then the festival proper is from Aug 6th to Aug 8th. The streets are decorated with huge kazari (literally ‘decorations’) consisting of kusudama (a large paper ball covered in paper flowers) and long streamers. Varieties of elegant designs and colors.
- In December, there’s the Pageant of Starlightwhich isn’t really a festival as such. The trees in two of the city’s main avenues – Aoba-dōri and Jōzenji-dōri – are festooned in thousands of orange lights. The effect is very pleasant, with the orange glow casting a warmth over the otherwise cold and frosty streets.
- The Donto-sai Festivalis held at the Osaki Hachiman Shrine on January 14 every year.
- Michinoku-Yosakoi Festival.
- Benyland, Yagiyama. This is a fun little amusement park. It’s not exactly Disneyland, but you can have a fun few hours on the roller coasters and other rides.
- Nikka Whisky Distillery Tour, Nikka 1, Aoba-ku (Sakunami). English, Korean, Chinese audio guide offered. 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tours are conducted every 15 to 20 minutes. Tours take one hour. Free whisky at the end of the tour.
- Kirin Brewery Tour, 983-0001 Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai, Miyagino Ward, Minato, 2−2−1. No English audio tour available, but you may get a hand out in English, and 3 free beer samples are included at the end. Tours should be reserved at least one day in advance, by 3pm, and have no guaranteed availability otherwise.
- Hot springs
- Akiu is about 40 minutes by bus from Sendai Station (West Exit Bus Pool). Sakkan (a hotel) is right next to the bus stop.
- Sakunami is about 20 minutes by train on the Senzan Line from Sendai Station.
- Naruko is popular hot springs in Sendai.
- Matsushima, located about 40 minutes away by local train (Senseki Line), is a bay full of tiny pine covered islands and is recognized as one of the three most beautiful views in Japan.
- Kinkasan, 60 km away at the tip of the Oshika Peninsula, offers light hiking and lots of deer. Walk up the mountain to see monkeys. Stay at the shrine on the island and participate in the morning service (6am).